For some years now MEDIA Salles has been investigating a much discussed area but one whose demand for deeper knowledge remains unsatisfied: that of added content for the big screen. In other words, the role that cinemas can play in spreading the enjoyment of art, culture, sport and live entertainment and making them more popular. In addition to the collection of statistical data, the articles published in the various editions of DiGiTalk and the communications presented during cinema events Europewide, MEDIA Salles has recently launched a new column starting with a glimpse at the Russian market. In this issue the focus has moved to Spain.
Added content in Spain: a promising market
"Bernini triumphs at the Spanish box office": on 12 December 2018, this was the title of an article in the section dedicated to movie theatres on "la.fm", the news website of one of Spain's most popular radio channels. The production by Magnitudo Film, devoted to the masterpieces by the greatest interpreter of Baroque figurative culture, had, on the previous day - the date of its Spanish release - recorded the highest number of admissions per screen. So the charts were headed not by a local comedy or a worldwide blockbuster, but surprisingly enough (or perhaps not?) by what was once known as a "documentary". Or an "exhibition-based art film", in the words of Phil Grabsky, the man who might be considered instrumental in the "renaissance" of the documentary genre based on the works of the great masters of painting and sculpture, thanks to productions specially designed and made for the big screen, using the most advanced film techniques. But isn't something more involved in making an "art film" out of a documentary? What is the key to success for a production that wishes to draw the general public towards the enjoyment of works of art, or what is generally known as "high culture"? A combination of factors, might be the reply: we have already mentioned the technical quality of the images but we might add to that strict scientific expertise on the one hand and, on the other, the ability to arouse strong emotions. In the case of Bernini at the Galleria Borghese, the intense sensuality that the film manages to convey, as emerged immediately from its first screenings in Italy during the Venice Film Festival or in Milan, in the special framework offered by Dan Flavin's installation at Chiesa Rossa. But other aspects should not be neglected, such as a distribution strategy based on the event formula: in Spain art films are generally screened publicly for two days - on their first release - generally on Mondays and Tuesdays, precisely to stress that they complement the "normal" programming. And then there is the ease of recognizing the theme: audiences that choose cultural content at cinemas want to "re-encounter" rather than "discover". Giovanni Cozzi, the founder of Rising Alternative explains this very well, when he addresses those exhibitors who are approaching the universe of added content for the first time: aim for established values, the names the whole world knows - whether in painting, opera, ballet or theatre. And this enormous cultural heritage is predominantly European, indeed Italian. It is therefore no coincidence that - returning to the question of the commercial performance of added content in Spain - at this very moment another Italian production - once again by Magnitudo and one regarding an Italian artist - should be repeating the success achieved by Bernini. We mean "Leonardo.Quinto anniversario" / "Leonardo.The five-hundredth anniversary", which on 6 May not only obtained second place in the charts based on admissions per copy on its release date, but also gained an overall fourth place. It was helped along by ideal timing: on 2 May the death of the versatile Italian genius was commemorated and, shortly before its theatrical release, the film was taken by the director, Francesco Invernizzi, to the Barcelona International Film Festival, obtaining strong resonance in the media. If participating in festivals is a fairly traditional marketing tool, a more specific success factor for added content is its "serial" nature, i.e. an element that is often missing in Europe's strictly cinematographic productions. In other words, there is a relatively constant flow of added content reaching the big screen and capable of fuelling the interest that has been aroused in the general public. This concept emerges clearly from the strategy adopted by A Contracorriente Films, the distributors (Bernini and Leonardo are theirs, too), which have created an authentic "season" of art films in order to make the genre more clearly recognizable and create audience loyalty. Not by chance, this operation is called "Temporada de arte" and is presented in terms of a journey through prestigious exhibitions, famous museums and biographies of the most significant figures in art history. A journey lasting ten months, which offers the same number of events. In the 2018/2019 season for this type of content, a grand total of three revolve around great Italian artists (as well as those already quoted, there is also Caravaggio), whilst seven come from Italian producers, amongst which Nexo is prominent. "Temporada de arte" is also far more than this: it is a platform which addresses audiences, where, from a "single address", tickets can be bought in advance for all the cinemas in Spain that offer this type of content and comments and opinions can be exchanged. The fact that the "season" formula is best suited for arousing interest and achieving audience participation and, as far as the exhibitor is concerned, for creating a core of fans for added content, is well demonstrated by the programming and marketing choices made by theatres that believe that art, music, ballet and theatre are a decisive element in their offer and not simply an extra opportunity.
In Spain the case of the Cinemas Van Dyck is emblematic - a total of 19 screens in Salamanca, which for years now have been offering an opera season with such a large following that it has allowed the exhibitors - Mari Luz Delgado and her son, Javier Heras - to join Club 150+, launched at the Mallorca Arts on Screen Conference to acknowledge the success of those theatres that obtain at least 150 admissions for each screening.
In the 2018/2019 season the Cinema Van Dyck programmed live opera events and - obviously in their recorded version - legendary productions that have become part of musical history, including the Scala's Andrea Chénier of 1985 and Hernani of 1982. Italy figures again here, and also in the "Ciclos de arte" which complete the cultural offer by these movie theatres in Salamanca. Right now, the star is the previously mentioned "Leonardo. Quinto centenario."
Although overall statistical data is lacking, the fact that Spain is a promising market for added content - and that content made in Italy is prominent here - is demonstrated by the many and increasingly frequent initiatives promoted by exhibition companies.
Whilst in Catalonia the most dynamic include the Gruppo Balaña and the Cinema Verdi - also operating in Madrid - , at a national level Cinesa and Yelmo regularly offer added content.
Yelmo, too, has chosen the "season" formula, creating the brand +Que Cine.
Further proof of players' confidence in the development of the market for added content in Spain is revealed in the growing distribution activity. We have mentioned A Contracorriente Films, a "traditional" distribution company that opened an event cinema section, but in Spain there are also distributors that came into being contemporarily with the digitization of theatres, with the aim of distributing added content. This is the case of Versión Digital, in operation for 8 years now, which brings performances by the Royal Opera House live to Spain's big screens, ad well as those by the Teatro Real in Madrid and by the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona. As well as distributing content by British companies such as Trafalgar, More2Screen or CinemaLive, Versión Digital collaborates with Spanish producers to create domestic added content.
Rising Alternative, founded in the United States, today works internationally from its headquarters in Barcelona, also distributing Italian productions. Giovanni Cozzi announces "l'Italia" which in the next few months, will bring Spanish audiences a "bouquet" including la Scala (Manon Lescaut, I Masnadieri, Tosca, Carmen), as well as "Il Volo: live from Matera".
"Spain: a growing market, but above all a great opportunity for Italian added content ", comments Chiara Telarucci of Magnitudo Film, whilst packing for her next business trip. Her destination? Barcelona, of course!
(Per leggere il testo in italiano cliccare qui)
This article was published in Cinema & Video Int’l, issue no. 6-7/2019
Added content releases in Spain in 2019-2020
© copyright MEDIA Salles